"The Secret Of The Silver Skull Machine, Part 3"
by Wil Alambre
The Super Wizard From Space and the Hermit Wizard From Space
were trapped in an asteroid belt by a swarm of gigantic
As it's fellow drones circled uniformly, one particularly
grusome space-bee broken from the formation. It was as
massive as any of the drifting asteroids, it's gigantic
yellow black body big enough to drag smaller free-floating
rocks behind. It's four crystal clear wings gave choppy
strokes and rapid rotations, providing quick and flexible
movement in the blackness of space. But the front of it, in
place of eyes or mouths or any sort of face at all, a dozen
fat, short, black tentacles writhing in the general
direction of it's prey.
The tentacled space-bee let out scented transmissions to the
damaged rocket-ship behind their circular blockade. "Leave
now, octopuszz. We have what we want, you are no longer
"Y'all don't have ta tell Pete twice," was the crackling
staticy reply. The rocket-ship made a wide turn and left the
vicinity, moving clumsily deeper into the solar system on
what remained of it's navigation systems.
The hermit wizard stood and yelled out after the retreating
rocket-ship, barking madly in angry radio waves. "Damn you,
Cephalo Pete! Damn your hide!"
From the formation, another buzzing shape made a haphazard
move, streaking toward the hermit wizard. It's entire front
half was dominated by a single oversized bloodshot eyeball
and it's spear-lengthen stringer was like a missile, a glint
of purple toxin at the barbed point.
The hermit wizard outstretched both hands in the air in
desperation, creating a protective domed shield of pale blue
light around the asteroid he stood on. But he froze in
horror as the fast-moving space-bee tore through it as if it
was cotton. It was impervious to his powers! It knew his
name! They all knew his name!
"Move, Gavrilo!" said the Super Wizard From Space as he flew
with great speed across the surface of the asteroid. He
tackled the stunned hermit wizard and zipped them both away
from the rocky surface, barely dodging the space-bee's
charge. The stinger embedded into the rocky surface, burying
deep into the stone with a vicious series of cracks. Drops
of the purple toxin seeped into the cracks with a hiss.
The remaining space-bees broke their circular pattern,
attracted by attack pheromones, and started diving into the
Gavrilo regained his senses. When released by his companion,
he wrapped himself in a light cocoon to fly under his own
power. They dived between the tumbling space boulders,
trying to use the larger ones as cover and thinner areas as
"Queen Buzz's Monster Bees!" shouted the super wizard to
Gavrilo, pointing back at the eyeball space-bee as it freed
itself from the rock. "Watch out for their poisonous sting!"
They saw a terrible transformation happen to the asteroid as
the cracks filled with purple liquid. The shape of it became
longer. One end stretched out in a pointed pole. Orifices
cracked open at the other end. Stone legs broke free from
underneath and opaque glass wings unfolded from above. The
new stone monster seemed confused for a moment, but it too
took to the scent of the attack pheromones and began
"I... I didn't think it was actually true! They're
lycanthro-bees!" exclaimed Gavrilo.
Two of the smaller drones, each with magificent
rainbow-coloured fish fins rather than wings, spotted the
pair of wizards and made a bee-line toward them. "Stay
behind me," warned the Super Wizard From Space as he
clenched his fist. A solar fire started within his palm,
spitting orange licks from between his fingers. As the
finned pair turned their spears downward, the super wizard
snapped his arm, letting the blast of flame unroll like a
whip. The fire blasted in the blinding arc of a solar flare,
the fusion fire vaporizing the attacking pair instantly.
The rest of the swarm easily spotted the flare and changed
course. They raced toward the source from all directions.
The super wizard barely had time to wave his hands in the
air above him, forming an egg shaped shield around himself
Multiple stingers stabbed at the shield, hardly penetrating,
but the purple toxin seeped into it's pale light. As it
spread, the shield took on a sickly red blue tint. The
energy shield started to bulge at the edges, taking on a
frighteningly familiar shape.
"No," the Super Wizard From Space said under his breath. He
spread out his fingers wide, feeding the shield more pale
light. The ghostly crown hovering over his head glowed
brightly as it mixed in with his own science sorcerous
powers, burning away the poisonous transformation. But as
the super wizard burned away the purple toxin from one part
of the shield, the swarm stung at other places. Infection
and burn and infection and burn.
"They're going to get through," said Gavrilo in panic.
"No," said the super wizard through gritted teeth. "I have
"I think can make it to the planet while they're distracted
here... I can still beat Pete to the Silver Skull Machine!"
"No!" demanded the super wizard, flinging pale light at the
shield frantically to burn away creeping toxin. "I have
this! You have to stay."
"I can blind the one with the big eye and slip through! I
can use the machine to fix all this! I can use the machine
to save you!"
"Gavrilo, no! You have to stay! This isn't about me..."
The hermit wizard stopped listening, focusing entirely on
the unnatural gaze of the one space-bee's oversized pupil.
It drew readied it's speared stinger, preparing to thrust
the deadly point back at the light shield. Gavrilo closed
his fist and let out a blue-white flare in a snapping arc at
the space-bee's gigantic eyeball. It screeched and danced
about chaotically, trying to avoid the fiery fate that had
claimed it's fellow drones.
It needn't have worried. The arc passed over it without
causing any damage whatsoever. The hermit wizard's whip-like
fusion fire snapped through the asteroid belt, blasting
scars and melting boulders, but the knowledge of Gavrilo's
name protected the space-bee from the power.
Wrapping himself in light, Gavrilo drilled through the
shield and past the blinded space-bee and raced out beyond
the asteroid field. He didn't risk a glance back. He ignored
the radio wave shouts of his fellow super wizard and the
pheromone-laced battering of the swarm still trying to
pierce the shield. Instead he tried for more speed as he
found the rocket-ship's fading trail, following it into the
Deep into the system's gravity wells toward a familiar
looking planet. A planet briefly revealed in the
data-cylinder's holographic map! Almost there!
Coming through the atmosphere, flying at gigantic speeds
over the surface, Gavrilo recognized abandoned cities and
architectural ruins that that he had only ever seen in
sketches and history books. These were definitely the right
types of buildings! Almost there!
Flying past overgrown fields and cracked highways, he
approached a vast mountain range with an artificial valley.
Gently falling to the surface, he could make out dusty walls
of what used to be some sort of research centre, the remains
marked with long forgotten alphabets. But nearby was a
massive strip-mine, gouged out of the earth in a long single
rectangle. A giant grave, excavated and emptied. King
Argentum's grave! Almost there!
Gavrilo landed by the main building of the alien research
centre, he could see the rocket-ship. It seemed to have come
in hard, suffering from melted thrusters and destroyed
navigation systems, finally gouging into the surface and
crashing to a stop against the research centre. Lights
flickered weakly and the airlock door was limply hanging
No, was he too late? Had Pete made it out? Climbing into the
rocket-ship, he cast a yellow halogen glow out in the dark
corridors, searching compartment by compartment for the
octopus alien. "Pete, are you alive in here?"
As he moved up the main hallway toward the rocket-ship's
cockpit, Gavrilo heard the faint metal clicking eight
ray-hammers being pulled back on eight loaded ray-guns. He
had just enough time to flare his yellow glow fully at the
cockpit before taking cover in a hallway nook. A blinded
complaint sharply came from behind the co-pilot's seat as a
series of wild ray-beams ricocheted down the hallway.
"Codswallop, Gavrilo! I cain't see!"
"That's the general idea, you ambushing son-of-a-scallop!"
spit back Gavrilo. He could keep the overly bright light in
the general direction of the cockpit, effectively denying
Cephalo Pete a clear shot, but the nook he was backed up
into didn't provide much cover. Worse, he was badly
outgunned, his powers as useless against the octopus alien
as they were against the space-bees.
But he saw a glint of bloodly ink wetting the floor of the
cockpit, and he could swear there was a troubled rasping
behind Cephalo Pete's swearing and shouting.
"You two wrecked my ship!" Cephalo Pete threw back. "I could
barely nurse it here all the way hereabouts afore all the
landing equipment done gone belly up on me! You coulda
"Well, you shouldn't have tried to pick us off at the pass!
Those weren't warning shots you were throwing in our warp
"You shouldn't have cracked wise 'bout my mother!" More
ray-beams came crazily down the corridor. Even blind, the
shots were coming frighteningly close. It was only a matter
of time before Cephalo Pete scored a lucky shot.
"I'm sorry about that," the hermit wizard admitted. "I
shouldn't have said anything."
"We was partners for all them space-years, looking for proof
about the silver skull machine. Looking for that damn map. I
figured you of all sentient beings woulda understood about
regrets. About mistakes you thought couldn't been taken
Gavrilo couldn't say anything.
"Well we're here now, Gavrilo! This here's that lost planet
under our suckers! That there's the silver skull machine,
just inside that there mess of a building outside! A real,
honest-to-space-betsy time machine! A way to get back to
that fishing vessel and save my deep departed mother! A way
to get back to one of them cosmic crowns and have the power
to do whatever I want! A way to change everything! A way to
Gavrilo frowned. "Fix everything, Pete? Like ambushing me
like a rat? Like selling out my friend to Monster Bees?" He
had a shiver down his spine at the sudden thought. "Goddamn
Monster Bees, Pete! You know what their sting does? What
their venom changes you into? And you traded my friend to
those things! I don't have any trust left for you!"
There was a wheezing sickly cough from the cockpit, and the
sound of spitting blood before Cephalo Pete said back, "Your
friend's fate is on your own head. We didn't know you'd
rustle up any help."
"You heard me fine, you whiny bastard," Pete said. "That
swarm wasn't there to ambush him. That swarm was there to
A thunderous buzzing suddenly filled the air followed
quickly by the sound of wrenching metal. The rocket-ship
shook fiercely as the hull suddenly gave way. Gavrilo could
only watch as a spear-like stinger made of purple-tinted
light tore through the cockpit, through the panels and
instruments and tossed-together cover, and through Cephalo
The alien octopus screamed in pain he was slammed around the
cockpit, impaled on the massive stinger. Clawed legs peeled
open the rocket-ship like an aluminum can, and the Hermit
Wizard From Space watched as the space-bee flew up into the
air with it's poisoned prey.
A monstrous space-bee, the size of an asteroid and made
entirely of purple-tinted shield energy.
Whew, this one is being emailed out at about a quarter to
midnight. Just barely made the Tuesday. Next week's episode
may be a little late, as I have a busy couple days ahead of
me, including a visiting guest. However, I hope to still be
able to make my weekly schedule.
This issue clocks in at approximately two thousand words
(not counting these notes), about five hundred words more
than I originally wanted. But I couldn't a good place to
break it up nor any content to cut out. So rather than force
it, I'm posting it at this length. I'm still determined that
most future issues remain short though!
I had a chance to run this arc and some ideas for future
arcs past a friend, despite my initial never-plot-ahead
gameplan. I was getting tripped up on where I was going with
this and how I was going to move forward with the whole
tournament shtick. With luck, this will make the next few
arcs link together smoother.
As for this arc, join us (hopefully) next week for the
Wil Alambre, follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wilalambre
"Hurry, uni-scribe! We have less than one space-hour to get to the
negotiating table before the Great Disaster arrives!" The desperate uni-diplomat paced back and forth in the room. He kept
looking at the space-clock, watching the moments tick away and
whinnying quietly under his breath. The light in the room was starting
to fade away as ominous clouds rolled in, covered up the twin suns. It
was as if the very planet understood the impending doom and was losing
"Very well, we agree. A tournament, then, to end this rampage. But you have witnessed the power at his disposal. He has a billion billion years of our science-sorcery at his command. Will all you great super-civilizations commit your super-champions to this?"
On a distant world, a mummy-robot and a brown-robed monk silently made their way to the center of a blasphemous cathedral. Though the robot lurched ungainly, it's servos making an uneven whirring sound as they moved the broken machine through black-stone hallways, it held it's bandaged head high, the ghostly
Cocytus the demon-glacier had the Super Wizard From Space engulfed in its icy grasp, forever to be a frozen prisoner of the ninth circle of Hell. Meanwhile the victorious Devil stood atop the massive field of ice, grateful to be back home. The Devil tilted his head back, closed his eyes, and just basked
On a filthy cobblestone hell-road outside the infinite walls of Double-Dis, the Super Wizard From Space stared up at the triumphant face of the Super-Devil. The monster's massive grin dribbled thick lava as he shouted out "Hey there, jerks! Welcome to Double-Hell!"
In the ruins of an ancient city of pillars, an alien octopus pointed eight dangerous looking ray-guns at a white-bearded hermit. "You best be giving me that there data-cylinder, Gavrilo, or I'll vaporize you right where you stand, I done swear it!"
Two figures hurtled through a scarred green warp tunnel underneath the skin of the universe toward the lost planet of the silver skull machine. The Super Wizard From Space was leading the way, encased in a cocoon of hard light that protected him from the rigors of space travel. His companion, a filthy bearded hermit,
A monstrously giant bee made of hollow electricity used its clawed legs to peel open the hull of the crashed rocket-ship. It glowed brightly with a pale light, partially transparent and seemingly fragile as it opened up the armored cockpit as if it was made of tinfoil. The ship's two occupants didn't even have a moment to shake off the shock before
The two super wizards stood stock still as the two floors of the building above them were eaten by the ghost of a cosmic megalodon. Bigger than a rocket-ship, it nonetheless hung effortlessly in the air, it's fifty-five rows of cleaver-like teeth surrounding their room as it floated vertically above them. The daylight of the alien sky shone
I am Theodor. I am a rainbow blue fish. I lived on a planet far away. Then I died. But that is was not the end. That was the beginning. I became a ghost. I became part of the infinite school. Thanks to wise Rex. This is the story of Rex. He is big fish. A big shark. Many sizes big. From a far away blue
It took nearly every ghost fish of the infinite school to confidently herd Sharkasaurus Rex into the depths of the invisible galaxy. The megalodon's monstrous instincts were near impossible to fully understand, a hundred million space-years of predatory instinct and insatiable hunger. The spectral school's entire telepathic concentration
"Oh dear me!" shouted Brody Dharma to the marble diamond hall, his gecko eyes spinning in shock as the ghostly forms of Geisel and Theodor circled over the sticky yellow remains of Queen Buzz. "Fish! Please! Contain yourselves!" "Tyrant!" flared out Geisel angrily, telepathically sharing horrific
"Master hero! Master hero!" cried out the young boy, frantic enough to ignore his disciplined training. "A terrible occurrence! The infinite school have lost their hold on their grisly teacher! The cosmic crown reacted suddenly and cut off their psychic leashes! Sharkasaurus Rex is loose!". The young boy wildly rang the same small gong all the monks in this
Geisel was gone, his phantasmal form torn apart in savage fury by the recently de-crowned Sharkasaurus Rex. The equally ethereal Theodor watched the entire sudden rending in still shock. As did the rest of the infinite school, millions of fellow ghost fish that had all gathered to psychically leash the mighty megalodon.
"Sharkasaurus Rex is feeding on the simple people of this planet," said the
Super Wizard From Space, pointing to where a sticky-looking red hue spread in
the red mist for a space-minute before the fin moved on. "He's converting their
psyches into spiritual mass, growing exponentially. This incredible instrument
is our only hope."
He was lying on the ground. Still at the top of the mountain
monastery. Yes, he was certain of it. There was no mistaking. He
remembered the feel of these particular stones. And the scent of that
particular moss. But he could not remember how he had came here. It
was like his mind was rattling around in his head while at the same
time trying to swell larger than his skull could contain.
I warned him not to use the Gong Ago, as the volume required from that sacred instrument would have unintended side effects. But like an old mule wearing ragged blinders, he rung it out anyway. And that powerful pitch has freed me and my like-minded brethren. My name is Andy Dharma. I am the master villain of the Invisible Monks.
In a clearing at the center, a nine-foot lizards bowed respectfully to his duplicate. He dressed the same way. He moved with the same simple grace. He stood with the same relaxed posture. And he looked back at him with the same calculating eyes, measuring the short distance between them, judging the smallest of movements.
"You are unbalanczed. You cannot be truszted with coszmic power." Her hand closed into a fist and squeezed. From every direction, the spectral fish tossed out their determination in crisscrossing grey lines, trying to ensnare his mind.
"Andy, don't do this," whispered Brody, "You can't." "Yes I can! Yes I will!" he shouted back at him. "No more bad habits disguised as tradition! No more of yesterday's rules deciding today's fate! I will show you what change can accomplish!" He spat on the floor in disgust, and backflipped off the balcony.
On the side of a small lake, a simple man was fishing off the end of a rickety dock. The lake was usually a clear blue, filled with many delicious fish. It was not so now. It was murky, tinted pink and red, the fish preferring to stay closer to the bottom, where the water was cleaner and lines could rarely reach. It meant the man would be lucky for even a small catch, but that would be enough. He lived alone on this shore, in his cabin up the hill, and had only himself to feed.
He wiped his hands on his bloody apron, then stroked his long grey beard with a smile. It was with great experience that he could judge the quality and balance of a blade and in all the experience, he had never worked with such magnificent instruments.
A portion of empty space bubbled and bulged, like plastic melting in a fire, then peeled away to reveal the spitting green end of a warp tunnel. Wrapped and protected in a cocoon of pale starlight, the Super Wizard From Space blasted out of the tunnel opening at incredible speed. The wound in black reality mended behind him with a practiced flick of
Sharp super-lightening split across a sick dry sky as a lone yellow cab pulled up in front of a long abandoned university. The pale driver scratched at his unkept beard. Hunched over the steering wheel, he got a better look through the windshield at the derelict campus. "You sure this is where you wanna to be?" he gruffly asked the passenger in the back seat.
"I will not tolerate your
presence here. Nor your trickery. I will burn away every molecule. I
will crack every atom. I will unravel your infernal form down to the
minimalist components and grind the remains under my boot."
"Once upon a time, five dark lords of multiple underverses made the mistake of signing a series of magical contracts in an attempt to insure some level of trust between them. Inevitably, all five of them went back on their words and now the tangled wording of those contracts have trapped them in the stone sepulchres of Quinto-Hell."
The ashen remains of the gorgon sunk into the circling river of molten rock and disappeared down the sinkhole in reality, pulled toward the punishments of Triple-Hell. A bleating car horn sounded. The Devil tugged at the wizard's shoulder. "Come along, guv. Our ride awaits."
Somewhere in the dank musky darkness swamp, a single snapping growl was followed up by a chorus of hungry grumbles and hollers and howls. Jagged trunks of twisted trees creaked and cracked as something massive pushed through. Huge lungs filled up and expelled, making for a thunderous breathy bass echo.
Black glass and brittle shale and oddly shaped boulders all bashed against each other in the tornado ferocity of the space between conceptual realities. Every small piece was both nonexistant and an immense solidity to itself, dragging and throwing and colliding with its surroundings as the entire mess fell through infinite layers of fractal
Looking about, he could see endless desert interrupted by black stone squares, similar to the one they were taking refuge on. A long wind was blowing, picking up loose dunes, shifting them up and over and around in an ever-moving landscape. It gave everything a burnt look, a rising sea of sand that just faded without an horizon. The only thing cutting through the leather-colored sky was the sun, massive and oversized, ten times larger than it should be.
The Devil, The Secret Living Language, and the Super Wizard From Space stood upon a massive square of black stone half buried in blistering desert sands. "This is it, end of the line," the Devil announced.
In the seedy bowels of a seedy mining camp, Cephalo Paul roused from blurriness to found himself at the mercy of an unkindness of anthropomorphic ravens. The lot of them stood on four clawed talons, spoke through horrifying beaks lined with serrated edges, and had too many ruby-coloured eyes.
"My name is senior lieutenant Yuri Gigan Topithecus, last survivor of the once-mighty space-sasquatch race. I was a hero of my people and a triumph of my government, becoming the first of my planet to journey into outer space... and as I completed my first orbit in my prototype capsule, I helplessly watched the Super Wizard From Space destroy my world."
The Super Wizard From Space towed his wounded prisoner to a dying system in a lonely constellation. It was a place that had been full and vibrant when the universe was young, a very long time ago. Now, it's small, dense white star bled away its diminishing heat and weak light into empty space.
Across the vastness of galaxies, a nameless forager bee achieves a stable geosynchronous orbit with distant Planet M. The ladened insect has been in contact with appropriate representatives, has deposited it cargo. It now maintains a microwave relay with the surface, and only awaits permission from the Hive to open communications.
In the clarity of the desert night, a single point of light smolders against the blue-black curtain. And it slowly grows the closer it gets, falling toward Us through immense distances. The Super Wizard From Space is coming to Planet M.
Emperor gestures back to the great monolith and declares, "At-the-behest-of-our-electronic-ennead, I've-entombed-the-Super-Wizard-From-Space-within-the-Pyramids-Of-Ka! His-power-will-feed-our-preservation-batteries-for-countless-cycles."
"The Szuper Wizard From Szpace is sztill alive. And He sztill has Hisz coszmic crown." We say it aloud. Not to anyone. To ourselves, as swirling shaking thoughts become cold and real. This is real. This is happening. "Why? Why have you done thisz?"
If you'll indulge me, I'll tell you a story about how some people ( who were much too smart for their own good, I'm afraid ) tried to find an easy, quick solution; by doing so, they doomed countless lives to AGES of suffering.
Now, I was halfway through a tale about countless doomed lives... and yes, my friend, I do know the difference between 'countless' and 'seven'. Those tragic academics were only the first direct victims of these newly formed cosmic crowns. What happened next was intended to prevent more loss of life, but it actually placed the entire universe in peril.
"A swarm! A monster swarm! Oh! Oh gods, they were everywhere. They killed everyone. They stabbed them and killed them. And the dead changed into more and went to do the same. Stabbing and changing and stabbing. Everyone's gone!"
Long spear-length stingers, glints of wet toxin at the tips. Wide crystal wings banging against torsos, making thrumming thunder. It's a *blanket* of angry buzzing. Getting thicker as they crawl over each other. At me. Looking to smother me. Kill me. If I'm lucky.
"What I'm doing, it has to be done. Because someone has to do it. Because no one else is doing it. They're scared of what might happen. Scared of what they could lose. Scared of things they can't change. We can't live like that."
Do you have any idea how this looks? We aren't at war anymore. The tournament is supposed to *prevent* this exact sort of conflict from flaring up again. You can't just go around dropping armies on the *home planets* of the universe's seven super-races."
His ancient race long ago unravelled the laws of physics, and they then learned how to redefine them. They harvest fusion fire to sustain themselves, and they hollow out suns to build their private strongholds. They are guardians of the spaces they know and explorers of the spaces they don't.
Reality stretches like canvas pulled taut. Time stutters and scratches and skips, between moments and months. The Wizard takes refuge within the umbra of the system's innermost planet, little more than a corner to be backed into.